God calls us to worship and serve Him by doing what He asks of us.
6 And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain— 2 for He says, “At the acceptable time I listened to you, And on the day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation”— 3 giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, 4 but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, 5 in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, 6 in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, 7 in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, 8 by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; 9 as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, 10 as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.
As I read verse 1, I realize that it can be understood two ways. The “working together” could mean that all of us are working together but also just that individually we are working together with God. Regardless of what it means, the point remains: we are to work with God. This is a difficult concept for us to grasp and utilize since we are so used to working for God, that we never stop to think, “maybe this isn’t what God wants me to do.” I learned this concept in missions school; we usually go do things we think God wants us to do and then ask Him to bless the work instead of first asking Him what He wants of us and then doing what He says knowing it is blessed because it is what He has called us to. Usually, we set ourselves up for failure in this way and create a rift between us and God in our minds.
The problem is that when God doesn’t bless our work that we think He wants of us, then we curse God because we feel He is cursing us. It’s like a 10 year old deciding to paint the house bright pink because mommy likes pink and he thinks she will be happy and then doesn’t understand why he gets in trouble for a making a pink TV screen. I feel like too often we read the scriptures when it talks about carrying our cross, enduring persecution and hardship, or anything else that seems to stretch us personally but we never stop to think, “Is this the cross I am supposed to be carrying? Is this the kind of persecution God called me to endure?” No, we just read a short sentence or two and then seek it out not realizing that it goes deeper than that. He doesn’t say, “go find a way to be persecuted” or “you should be carrying crosses around.” Instead, God is very specific about these things and describes them in detail so we understand.
I love how Paul runs the gamut of what they go through, good and bad. It’s not always about hardship or a small handful of things. I’m always wary of lists in the bible because it can trap us into thinking it is the short be-all end-all answer to salvation when instead they are just an example of things we will experience. In this list we see everything from genuine love to imprisonment. Yet again it isn’t about what we do, it’s about whom we do it with. This is the reason for Paul’s quoting of the prophet Isaiah in the beginning.
God will help us along the way, regardless of the obstacle or trial, but only if it is what He wants us to do in the first place! Too often we cry out to God or curse and yell at Him because we think He doesn’t love us and neglect recognizing that He does indeed love us which is why He is always trying to tell us where to go and what to do. You can think of Him as a big satellite in the sky knowing where the bad guys are and where the objective is and He is trying to guide you through the battlefield. Sure, you’re going to have to fight sometimes and get dirty, but you always know He is up there guiding you around the traps and ambushes of life.